SecondSpace, a Bellevue, Wash.-based Internet startup backed with venture funding, launched two real estate Web sites today targeting the growing vacation homes market.
With LandWatch.com and ResortScape.com, the company aims to connect people to their next second home or land for sale and also to provide information about local services in the towns where their properties are located.
SecondSpace was founded last year by two Internet veterans — former Classmates executive Anil Pereira, and former Microsoft technical leader Alok Sinha. The team received $6.5 million in venture capital from Ignition Partners and an undisclosed partner last July.
The second-home market includes some 43.8 million owners, according to Census Bureau data, and SecondSpace hopes to fill a niche with what it calls a “lifestyle marketplace” to give consumers all the information they need for their “home away from home.”
“The whole idea is to give people second lenses,” said Pereira, president and CEO of the startup. With the average second-home owner either looking for or already owning a home that is located at least a few hundred miles away from his or her primary residence, he said, “We started to realize there’s this geographic and temporal disconnection between owners and communities.”
Second-home sales accounted for 36 percent of all existing-home and new-home sales in 2006, down from a 40 percent share in 2005, according to the National Association of Realtors’ latest research. Investment-home sales dropped from a 28 percent share in 2005 to a 22 percent share in 2006, while vacation-home sales rose from a 12 percent share in 2005 to a 14 percent share in 2006.
Second-home markets are more about lifestyle, Pereira said, with the activities and atmosphere taking priority over the home itself in most cases. So the company started out trying to pull those considerations into its search technology.
While on ResortScape.com, for instance, a person looking for “skiing in Vermont” will see a number of property listings in skiing areas of the state, but may also get suggestions for properties near ski resorts in similar areas.
The sites also offer information on local service providers for homeowners who live out of the area but need information on local plumbers, landscaping or maintenance providers, for example.
“You don’t necessarily need to know what you’re looking for,” said Sinha, chief technology officer of SecondSpace. He further explains that with the sites’ semantic searching, a person who enters “50 acres in Montana” will also be able to see results for 52 acres of land or 49 acres in Montana.
Competitors in the online second-home market space include HomeAway.com, which is more focused around connecting vacationers with homes that are for rent, and EscapeHomes.com, which offers to connect buyers with second homes.
SecondSpace generates revenue by charging real estate brokers a $50 monthly subscription fee to have their property listings included in searches on the site. The company also builds custom sites for developers and sells data about second homes.
The site is free to consumers and the listings for local service providers are currently free, though that may change in the future, Pereira said.
The chief executive also said that SecondSpace plans to expand into other verticals, but will still target the same 39- to 60-year-old consumer demographic — the baby boomers searching for second homes.
The company offers brokers several ways to upload listings, as well as analytics to show who’s looking at which properties on the sites.